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VMworld 2015 Planning Tips - Are You Prepared?

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again, can you believe it?  Time for VMworld!  It's the largest annual reunion for 23,000 of your closest virtualization friends.

Whether this is your first virtualization pilgrimage made to VMworld, or, whether you are an old pro after attending at least one show in the past decade, I'd like to share a few tips and tricks with you to help make your VMworld event that much more successful if possible.  I'm sure I'll miss a few key tips or tricks, so please feel free to comment and add your own.

Let's begin!

Packing.  Yes, before you even start.  Get ready to pack appropriately!  VMworld says the dress code for the event is casual to business dress.  And it really is up to you.  The fashion police won't be walking around handing out citations.  But don't take that as an invitation to wear just anything. 

I would say, like most things, the attire really depends on what you're doing at the conference.  Dress for what you are doing at the show, but also be comfortable.  You're going to be there all week, and your main focus should be on learning and networking.  However, I cannot stress this enough... make sure you wear comfortable shoes!  The show is BIG.  It's spread out across multiple locations at the Moscone Center.  Add to that, there are things that are off-site, at other hotels or venues.  Translation: you will be walking... a lot, make no mistake.  Trust me on this, and your feet will thank you later.

Oh yeah, keep in mind, San Francisco can be 80 degrees at one point, and then drop down to a chilly 40 degrees in the evening.  Plan on going out at night?  Think about bringing a jacket of some sort.

Bring Business Cards - Yes, even in 2015, business cards come in handy!  Even if you don't want to swap physical cards with the people you meet, remember, you can't drop something digitally in a fish bowl for a chance to win something.

Arrival.  Transportation.  To start you out, if you're traveling to San Francisco by plane, think about using a shuttle bus rather than taking a cab.  If you have the time to spare, you'll probably save about $60 on a round trip by doing so.  To earn the savings, you'll have to share the shuttle with around 4-6 other people (and they typically wait around 30 minutes or so to fill up a shuttle van), but if you're watching your wallet, it could make all the difference coming and going.  But if you're pressed for time and need to head back to the airport from the hotel, make sure to catch a cab or grab an Uber.  It's cheaper than missing your flight.

Besides the shuttle, cab or Uber, you can also grab a CityPASS if you're feeling adventurous and want to travel a bit more beyond Airport - Hotel - Airport. 

Contact your vendors and partners.  Let them know you are going to be at VMworld.  Vendors and partners like to make face-to-face contact when and where possible.  So help forge a stronger relationship, and meet up with them to find out the latest.  And let them know what's going on with your company as well.  And remember, vendors also throw parties, so make sure you get added to the guest list!

Arrive early on Sunday.  If you can get there on Sunday, do it.  Walk around and get the lay of the land.  That way, come Monday, you know where everything is and you aren't scrambling to figure it all out.  It's also a lot easier to register and get your badge on a Sunday when the crowd is a little less, well, like cattle being herded.  It's also a good time to meet up with friends, colleagues, vendors, partners, etc. before the chaos show starts. 

Spousetivities.  Is your spouse coming along to San Francisco with you?  Do they not care about virtualization (blasphemy!)?  Then make sure to sign up for Spousetivities.  There are a lot of events planned, some are already sold out.  So check out this list, and pre-purchase any of these fantastic events while your significant other is attending VMworld. http://www.eventbrite.com/e/vmworld-us-2015-spousetivities-san-francisco-tickets-17929605934

Food.  There are plenty of opportunities to never spend a dime and get your fill of food at the show.  VMware has a number of meals planned for you.  And you can always hook up with a vendor and get taken to a restaurant or attend one of their parties where drink, food and fun can be had.  Enjoy lunch in the park!  The Yerba Buena gardens is an amazing place for a picnic lunch.  You can even catch some live music while you eat.  And this is San Francisco!  So if you get tired of the show, the free food, and your spouse allowed you to bring some spending money -- try out a restaurant, and there are plenty within walking distance.  (Every year I have to go to Mel's Diner for at least one breakfast).

Make time for the Solutions Exchange.  I can't stress this one enough.  I realize the first thing most people think of when they register for a show like this is that they need to fill up their schedule with breakout sessions.  And while those are absolutely wonderful, I want to make sure folks understand that you can learn a lot by walking the Solutions Exchange floor. 

This year, there are 248 sponsors and exhibitors, each of whom paid a LOT of money to have a booth at the show.  This is your chance to find out about a number of different software products that you may not have even heard of yet.  Don't just let them scan your badge and move on -- ask them for a demo and see the product in action.  In the end, this is usually a lot more rewarding than listening to a Power Point pitch by sales and marketing... sorry to say.  So take advantage of these one-on-one interactions. 

Don't forget: This is also the place to get swag!  And at VMworld, you'll find just about everything.  And yes, there will be a sea of T-Shirts, so make sure to stock up on new attire for the office.  ;)  

Network, network, network. Remember, these are your people!  These are fellow virtualization users with similar experiences and interests as you.  Trade war stories with one another.  Find out best practices you may not know about yet.  Meet VMware employees (those folks building the technology), VMware vExperts, bloggers, reporters, analysts, book authors, VMUG members, VMTN community users, etc.  Ask them the tough questions!  Or just say hello and get LinkedIn with people.  Sometimes, you only know these people by their online names... meet them up close and personal, and get to know the person behind the handle.  A great place to do that is at the Solutions Exchange or the Hang Out area.

Lunch is another great time to try and meet new people. Don't sit at the empty table (come out of your shell); find a table with people already seated and ask to join.  Strike up a conversation! 

Breakout sessions.  Choose wisely and carefully.  Make a plan and stick to it.  Do your research before signing up!  Research the topic and the speakers.  Are they the industry experts?  Are they the developers and implementers?  Are they the company CTO or technology advocate?  Or are they sales or marketing people? 

The online scheduler should keep you from booking multiple sessions at the same time, so it's helpful in that regard.  Use it to build your schedule, and make sure to keep it handy.  Or even better, update your calendar on your phone or use the VMworld App.

Choose wisely, and do your best to show up.  Remember, if you don't show, someone else might have been able to schedule it.

Remember, breakout sessions are typically recorded.  With a full conference pass, you get access to the break out session recordings.  So don't feel like you have to book every session you see.  Relax!  And you can watch it later when you return home. 

Be careful about scheduling back-to-back sessions.  Remember, this show is spread out across the Moscone Center, and chances are slim that back to back sessions will be next door to one another.  Keep track of where each session is when scheduling.  If you have to walk from one location to the next, you might miss the next session.  And these things start on time, and they wait for no one!  Well, unless the speaker is late.  Then it waits for them.

Hands on lab session.  The Hands-on Labs component of VMworld is always a fan favorite.  Translation -- they get crowded and booked up.  Attendees can explore topics such as the Software-Defined Data Center, Enterprise Mobility and the Hybrid Cloud with a VMware-provided keyboard or their own device, and experiment in the lab for 60-90 minutes.

And if you get stuck or have questions, VMware product experts will be on hand to answer any questions you may have around the products used in a lab, focus area or expert-led Workshop.

Listen to the Keynotes.  The Keynotes usually offer some "key" information.  Want to hear about the future direction of VMware?  Want to hear about upcoming technologies straight from the horse's mouth?  This is your chance to see and hear from VMware executives. 

The Keynote is usually a packed house.  So if you want to sit anywhere near the front, get there early.  However, you have options.  If you don't get there early enough, there are large screens strategically placed throughout the room.  So if you're late, pick a seat where you have a good visual of one of those screens instead of a big column or the back of a camera man. 

If you're hung over (you know who you are), stay in your hotel room and watch the live streaming of the Keynote.  Hey, it happens.  We understand.  No judgement here.  :)

Don't count on the Wi-Fi connection. Remember, this is VMworld -- a show filled with 23,000 technologically savvy people, like yourself.  And guess what?  Like you, they are all going to be traveling with multiple devices, all sucking away at the available Wi-Fi signal.  So don't count on being able to connect to the Wi-Fi at all times during the show.  And even if you do, expect it to be spotty and slower than anticipated.  Hey, it's a fact of life.  Also, don't expect the hotel to be much better.  Some hotels will charge you a daily rate, but that won't stop everyone from connecting.  So be prepared to be unimpressed with hotel speeds too.

Enjoy the parties!  VMworld is packed with great networking events including a Welcome Reception, Hall Crawl and its VMworld Party, which is back at AT&T Park this year!  This is VMware's biggest bash.  They offer up quite an assortment of food and drinks, and follow that up with a private concert.  In the past, we've seen Foreigner, INXS, The Killers, Train, Imagine Dragons and the Black Keys.  This year, for your listening pleasure, the party features the bands Neon Trees and Alabama Shakes on Wednesday evening, 7:30PM - 10:30PM.

And don't forget... make sure to bring your badge if you want to get into the party!  You'll need it.  And yes, it has to be a full conference badge or guest party pass (sorry, expo passes won't cut it). 

Beyond the VMware hosted party, there are a host of other parties and events taking place during the entire conference.  If you're looking for something extra to do, there is no better place to start than the Community Gatherings page.  Even beyond that list, ask around while networking.  There may be a few hidden gems that didn't make this year's list for whatever reason.

http://www.vmworld.com/en/gatherings.html

And don't forget, follow VMblog's live coverage of VMworld 2015.

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Published Wednesday, August 26, 2015 7:18 AM by David Marshall
Filed under: ,
Comments
So Long #VMworld 2015. Thanks for all the Fish and the vExpert Gifts : @VMblog - (Author's Link) - September 4, 2015 6:32 PM
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